Off-Season Maintenance – Tips to Make the Most of Winter

When golf balls quit rolling on the mini course and go karts slow to an idle and stop in the pond after Labor Day, activities in the park don’t wind to a halt just because the patrons are gone. It just changes and shifts from recreation to renovation, presenting challenges to overcome and maintenance steps to check off.

Winter is a busy time of reconditioning everything at Grand Old Golf, Nashville, Tenn., more so than in summer, said Bob Werle, who designed the park containing three mini golf courses, an arcade and go-kart track, he now manages with his wife Carol.

The park, situated on five acres, presents copious mature plants and landscaping in winter to prune back, streams to drain for leaf removal and treatment of the soil beneath, ornamental grasses to cut back, and wooden furniture to rebuild, paint and repair.

The area climate creates the biggest challenge to Werle in maintaining the water quality of the extensive waterfalls and pond to keep full and clean, pumped out of a well. “Global warming makes it tougher to deal with, expensive and constant. We’re always looking for better ways, and this year we will use barley at the bottom to control algae, which is less expensive than copper sulphate and chlorine.”

Another money-saver is an arrangement set up with the local McGavock Comprehensive High School that benefits students, also, who rebuild and paint the fiberglass go-kart bodies. “We buy materials, they learn the art of fiber-glassing and get a free ride-day in the park, the karts are rebuilt and look brand new. It also helps us use kids for staffing in summer. They’re a good link because they already have interest.”

A recent renovation for Bass River Sports World, celebrating its 50th anniversary in South Yarmouth, Mass., doesn’t preclude an extensive and exhaustive maintenance checklist during the winter months. Owner Lou Nickinello reduces the days his full-time staff works from six days to four and in that shortened week, the 30-acre park is prepared and maintenance is done before the season starts. “Staff prepare inventory, report what to order, get balls, clubs and printing materials ordered. A lot of people don’t worry till spring. We use the time from November to February to get ready, and when the doors open, revenue begins and we pay attention to customers and service rather than equipment.

Go-karts are taken apart, completely refurbished, and parts checked, fences mended around batting cages, and the driving range fence tightened so it won’t come down in the wind. Carpeting is replaced in the arcade, interior painted and refurbished machines brought back in, ready for the season.

Mini golf is the biggest revenue producer and is most demanding, requiring carpet replacement every three years, regular pump replacement, maintenance of the seven-acre driving range and sprinklers. “Everyday we move 100,000 gallons of water in the ponds. Nickinello said, “We have to get golf clubs regularly, which takes time, it takes an hour and a half to get the course open. We treat the water like a backyard pool so it looks pristine.” All this, not to mention the daily prerun safety checklist on every go-kart.

Any maintenance requirements at The Fun Spot, Queensbury, N.Y., is based on the weather, said Manager Alyssa Park and winter, no doubt, lays out a major gauntlet in the form of snow and ice removal. Though Park recommended starting any maintenance routines as early in spring as possible to be ready for Memorial Day opening, it can’t happen until after the snow melts to be able to clean up the dirt underneath, getting golf carts ready requires waiting until a thaw, and plants will die if planted too early. “We do whatever is required, from painting to carpet repair and sprucing up the outside landscape. Also as the building is warm inside, condensation forms and we have to watch for leaks that occur in the roof. It gets below freezing and starts again.”

Maintenance is a continuous process at the 20,000-square-foot, 10-year-old FEC, Wildwood Highlands, in Wildwood, Pa., said owner, Vince Rutledge. “It turns into a routine,” he mentioned. “Even though it seems long, off-season comes and goes quicker than you think. We have several go-kart bodies painted per year. Hauling them away in the snow is laborious, but the last thing you want to do when school and party groups come is have karts away, shut down or ordering parts. You can’t let anything go or sit back and say you’re set for the season.”

The challenge with gas-motorized bumper boats is keeping the fleet of 15 up and running as pond temperature fluctuates with the weather. With the karts important is the daily safety check, which is written up by staff the night before. All tires are checked and each go kart is constantly monitored, and goes through a regular maintenance and compression check.
The key to running a tight ship like Eracers Go Kart Park in Butler, Pa., is quality equipment and the right people, capable and willing to work on them, said owner Estol Harp. “We have good equipment from good manufacturers. Buy the wrong ones and you can be sorry in the end.”

The off-season routine is to winterize bumper boats, add antifreeze to pool and lines, winterize squirt guns, and on the golf range, touchup scenes in buildings, correcting any rock work, and the usual painting and refurbishing. Proper winterization of karts is a must, said Harp. “If motors sit with water in them all winter, you’ll fight with it all summer, rusting up jets and carburetors. Prevention is best.”

Bumper boat pond water quality haunts Harp. “You can get it right and then rain introduces something from the atmosphere and it turns green or black.”

The winter at Wahooz Family Fun Zone, Meridian, Idaho, has been a busy one, said Joe Bell, general manager.  The drill was replacing the batting cage canopy net, retrieving all karts from the water to refurbish, touch up paint, repair fiberglass and replace any corroded parts in the electrical system.  He noted, “For mini golf, we wait until it’s warm enough to replace golf range carpets in the shoulder season because the glue has to be able to stick to the concrete, same with painting. All maintenance outside is weather-related.”

Bell’s goal in winter is to completely go through each piece of equipment and kart and make it like new. “We buff the bodies to shine and look brand new.” He also focuses on the main facility, cleaning and painting the shop and floor. “It’s the same concept as an expensive car kept in a garage. If the shop has quality of look then the go karts look well, too.” –

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